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Google's electronic eyewear gets 'OK Glass' voice commands

Hoping to carve out a new type of personal computing, Google shows off how to use its computerized eyewear to search, navigate, chat, and take photos.

This Google Glass video, taken without the need to hold a camera, is part of a video-chat hangout.
This Google Glass video, taken without the need to hold a camera, is part of a video-chat hangout.
Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

"OK Glass."

Those are the two words that Google showed today will initiate a variety of commands for its Glass computerized eyewear.

In the Google Glass "How it Feels" video, people speak the words "OK Glass" and then pick from a list of featured voice commands to send a message, record a video, take a photo, launch a video-chat hangout, conduct a search, check the weather, or get driving directions.

The demo is a concrete illustration of how Google is evolving its technology from a mere search engine to a constant personal companion that augments your mind.

When Microsoft introduced Windows 95, its Start menu became the gateway for just about anything you could do with the operating system. Google -- expecting to advance computing beyond the era of PCs and even smartphones -- no doubt hopes that "OK Glass" will become as familiar.

The Glass eyewear perches a screen just above a person's ordinary field of view; the device itself is equipped with a processor, camera, head-tracking orientation sensors, and other electronics drawn from the smartphone industry. Google began selling Glass developer prototypes called Explorer last year for $1,500 that are due to ship this year.

Google's site shows off Glass' GoPro-like videocamera abilities, with first-person views of table tennis, swordplay, trapeze acrobatics, jumping rope, sculpture carving, hot-air ballooning, and more. The company is trying to demonstrate it as a sort of real-time video Facebook you can use to share life with others as you experience what's going on around you.

Google's video and "what-it-does" explanation is very much from a first-person perspective, showing what it's like to wear the device. It makes for a very personal experience, reproducing what a person would see and adding an unobtrusive transparent Glass interface in the upper right.

But that's not the whole story of Glass, of course. Wearing the devices might be very personal for the user, but wearing Glass makes you look a bit cyborg. Surely many folks talking to a Glass-wearing person will be put off by the knowledge that there's a microphone and camera pointed right at them. Think of how differently people behave when the camera comes out for a photo op.

In time, people will adjust, as they have to people talking on phones as they walk down the street -- especially if Glass becomes mainstream. Google expects Glass will be ready for consumers in 2014.

Google also announced a promotion in which people who share interesting ideas about what to do with the device get the chance to become a "Glass Explorer," who can then pre-order a $1,500 prototype. The application deadline is February 27.

Google's Project Glass electronic eyewear is "strong and light," Google said.
Google's Project Glass electronic eyewear is "strong and light," Google said. Google

Updated at 6:30 a.m. PT with clarification on the Glass prototype promotion.